How to Use a Bowl Gouge on a Wood Lathe Like A Pro?

Use a Bowl Gouge on a Wood Lathe

There are many fanatics of woodturning, a hobby that involves woodworkers to work passionately with spindles, bowl gouges and related tools.

However, the hobby could be safe with knowing right technique and tactics that involve woodworking professional ethics as well. So, if you’re someone who is in love with turning spindles and making bowls, pens and more, then this writing is dedicated to you.

How to Use a Bowl Gouge on a Wood Lathe: Basics to Ethics

Using bowl gouge on a woodworking lathe is probably the most known thing to any professional woodturner.

However, not everybody knows the right ethics and basics related to this amazing chore. So here I am to throw everything inside of mine today and you can enjoy this hobby to the fullest.

Basic Introduction to Tool

Bowl gauges are quite similar to spindle-gauges. These are great at tenon and outside profile cutting. Your project will have a portion that gets protrudes from wood, this is the tenon. For turning dishes, bowl gouges are pretty exceptional than any other tool.

The most common and my favorite type is swept-back bowl gauge. These are great with a wing-like design.

The wings let you drag towards side of bowl. However, you need to be careful enough so that there’s no running the bevel. Or else a catch might risk and ruin the overall project.

1. Rounding the Blank

You’ll have to get a huge chunk of wood to start with the turning process. The fresh green woods are really a great choice for turning into a bowl. These are pretty easy to cut since there’s a lot of dampness. You need a pre-processed balance to start.

This blank should have a rounded shape equidistant that starts from the middle. It could be done using a band or circular saw. As soon as you think the shape is usable round, make a hole in center point. You can use a simple awl to do so.

Now simply mount the blank into headstock’s chunk. Make sure you are connecting the tailstock to center. This point is usually opposite to the headstock’s mounting area. So that stability is okay.

Let the tool rest come in parallel with both center points. It should also be 1/8 inches from the stock’s highest protruding point. This is compulsory for hand rotating tasks.

Now let the lathe start at lowest speed. Use gouge at this point to start rounding the blank. You should decide a diameter. Keep on rounding until blank reaches the diameter. It needs to be consistently rounded and smooth.

2. Repositioning Tool Rest While Detaching Tailstock

Time to get rid of the tailstock. Now you need to reposition the tool rest. This is because you want the tool rest to be parallel with blank’s face. Previously it was linked to the tailstock.

Next, you will start turning the bowl’s outer face. Let lathe turn really slow at the beginning. A rounding gouge or bowl gouge will help here. Keep on rounding the bowl until it has a completed outer shape.

Your lathe should come with a bowl chuck. It needs to be accommodated. So, to make that happen, you will cut the bottom part of bowl and make a recess.

To figure out what diameter and depth you should go for bowl chunk, use the instruction that comes along.

You need to be confident about properly cutting the recess. After that, simply detach the blank from headstock.

Now fit the blank with bowl chuck. And then attach it to the headstock. Make sure the blank is rotating freely by simply spinning with hand.

3. Time to Hollow Out the Bowl

How to Use a Lathe Step by Step

The face blank should be in parallel with tool rest, start with this for hollowing bowl. Let the lathe turn slowly and your bowl starts rotation.

Hold the bowl gouge with both hands and start to begin slight cuts gradually. You should start hollowing the bowl from center to outside.

To get rid of the center material, you should be making very gradual cuts. Focus on maintaining the shape of both inner and outer sides of bowl. Keep on doing so until you find the desired wood thickness between both inner and outer parts.

It’s time to make a consistent bowl lip. You need to use the bowl gouge once again here. It could be two types, however. One is an inner portion of bowl transitioning rounded shape to the outside of bowl. Another is a squared-off type of shape.

Any blank cracks can be a problem that brings catches on the cutting tool’s edge or even gauges piece. So, you need to make pretty shallow cuts on the lip.

It’s almost done once your basic bowl shape shows up. You just have to sand it out and apply any preferable finish.

No Catches Are Allowed!

Catches are your worst enemy when it comes to using bowl gouge or woodturning. There are more than a few ways to avoid them. Let’s talk about these in a nutshell.

Don’t Ever Use a Dull Gouge

I know many of you might find this too obvious. But trust me, there’s a lot of people who have the tendency of working with a dull edge bowl gouge. This is the best way to cause a catch while using bowl gouge. At least try to sharpen the gouge ten minutes prior to using it.


Many experts call this the ABC of woodturning. ANCHOR on the tool rest to start. BEVEL support is a must while you use gauge. CUT is the final take for process. These are the ABCs that gives a perfect rescue from catches while woodturning.

Bowl Gouge’s Cutting Tip Crossing the Tool Rest

One of the worst things to happen is when your bowl gouge’s cutting tip crosses tool rest. This needs to be as minimal as possible.

The bowl gauge size will also have a great impact on tool reach amount. If the bowl gauge diameter is larger, it can surely go a bit further across tool rest. But the same distance might not be applicable with a small diameter gauge.

With the increased distance of tool rest and cutting tip, control over system will get less. With less tool control, gauges are prone to come off bevel. This will make them bounce around, which eventually leads to catch.

To solve this problem, you can simply keep the tool rest closer. This will make the bevel stay further away from tool rest. That way you can have the right tool control. The edge of bevel needs to be on other side of tool rest. Just let the shaft part have access to tool rest.

Understand Your Gauges Appetite

This might seem funny to many. But your bowl gauge can really get upset if you let it over-eat. The large size gouges usually eat more wood. However, it should be never too much to make catches.

Keep the Sensation in Mind

Your bowl gouge will feel a certain way when the material amount gets increased. It might be too much for the gauge. The only way to recognize that it can’t handle overload is by memorizing sensation.

I’m talking about the way your gouge sounds, handles and feels. This information should be in your memory so that you never come across a catch because of overusing materials. I hope that makes sense!

Smooth Bevel Riding

Just like riding the bike, bevel using is a technique you learn with repeated practice. So that the bevel riding passes cleanly. That’s extremely helpful for using bowl gouge and ridding any catches absolutely.

Want to Be Perfect? Then Practice!

Before you actually think that this information reading session has made your skills enriched to try turning in an expensive burl or exotic wood, think again! Are you enough capable to start with those precious items? For the most, answer is going to be no or yes with slight confusion.

I would absolutely not go for such exotic pieces and simply start with something bare minimal. My first bowl gauge try was on a scrap. I practiced more than a few times on these before jumping to cheap 2×6 pine from the home center. You can try it as well!

As soon as your cuts have no tear-outs, you’ve made it! Now you are ready to try something professional with the practiced techniques.

Keep in mind that every bowl turning experience will need lots of hollowing and exterior cuts. If you see these are seamless like finishing cuts, then probably you’ve reached the right point of professionalism. Till Then Keep on Practicing!

About Sam Maxi

Hi, this is Sam Maxi. I love talking about woodwork tools and my reviews are mostly based on the experience I have from my work. Apart from reviewing, I am a huge fan of surfing. Also, I love watching horror genre movies.

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2 thoughts on “How to Use a Bowl Gouge on a Wood Lathe Like A Pro?”

  1. Hey Sam,
    What a fantastic how-to guide!

    Recently, I started bowl turning and encountering some difficulties. I am going to follow the instructions you mentioned here. I believe this guide will assist me in becoming a pro!

    Also, I have a couple of mates who also started bowl turning, and they will admire this how-to guide.


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